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9 unpredictions: What's not going to happen with mobile in 2010

By Vanessa Horwell

Instead of producing an annual predictions list that many analysts and forecasters will be doing from now through the end of January, I am producing a series of "What's not going to happen in 2010" forecasts.

As the precursor to predictions, I have become weary of the retrospective look back at a year to think about what did not happen. A year riddled with missed targets and dashed expectations. And particularly this year, a year that was almost destined for failure ? if we were to believe the 2009 predictions ? before it even began.

To be sure, the mobile industry had an interesting 2009.

And true to form, many of the developments that came to characterize this year in mobile went unmentioned by prognosticators in 2008. In an industry so defined by technological advances, perhaps explicit forecasting is outmoded altogether? Now there?s an ironic concept.

But while I am reverse engineering the process of predictions here please remember that, as with any form of prophesying, I could be wrong. So here are my ?unpredictions" specific to the mobile space for 2010, in the form of headlines I do not think we are not going to see.

Apple shutters App Store, cites waning demand
Executive wonders, ?Who uses these things, anyway??

This mobile application has provided a rebuttal to the assertion that smartphones are just small computers. They are not. 

Applications remind consumers that they are better than mini-computers.

With an emphasis on intuitive functionality, driven in part by open-source-style programming, applications will explode in 2010 ? and you thought they already had.

There will be an application for absolutely everything by the end of 2010 as every brand jumps on the application bandwagon. Yes, we will get sick to death of them, but they will be no sayonara very soon.

Virginia Adams of Boston, 86, buys mobile phone, brings U.S. mobile saturation to 100 percent
?I didn?t want to be the last person over 6 without one,? Ms. Adams says

While it may seem like absolutely everyone has a mobile device now, the United States will not hit 100 percent mobile saturation in 2010.

In fact, it is unlikely that any population segment in the country will achieve that level of saturation at any time.

What must be remembered, however, is that at the current mobile usage rates ?82 percent of Americans own and use a mobile device ? the mobile channel is as large and powerful as any traditional media channel, and that device ownership is growing fastest among Virginia?s demographic ? women over 40. Ha!

Retailers abandon mobile coupons, industry to return to paper
?We think customers miss the clipping,? says an industry spokesman

Retailers are actually heading in the opposite direction.

Nearly 3 billion mobile coupons will be issued to mobile users and just under $7 billion discounts redeemed by 2011, according to Juniper Research.

Next year may not turn out to be the long-awaited explosive breakout year for mobile coupons ? as had been predicted of 2009, 2008, and 2007 ? but it certainly will not witness their demise.

Federal government declines to regulate mobile advertisements
?Mobile spam sounds like a made-up term, doesn?t it?? asks an unnamed FTC source. ?I mean, it?s just a text, for goodness? sake?

The Federal Trade Commission recently laid more stringent guidelines governing the practice of telemarketing. The agency already has fairly strong regulation in place regarding unsolicited text messages.

So, 2010 may likely feature the federal government taking more steps toward ensuring consumers? privacy and regulating unwanted text messages. Finally.

Mobile commerce makes list of top 10 greatest ideas that never happened
?World peace was our consensus No. 1,? explained the selection committee chair, ?but mobile commerce was in the running for the top 3?

Like mobile coupons, mobile commerce is one of those trends that always seems about ready to explode, and then never quite reaches critical mass. 

But this year, with mobile banking on the rise and more retailers participating in mobile initiatives, mobile commerce is really and truly poised to become a large-scale reality. Or, of course, maybe not.

Banking industry discontinues mobile banking
?I met a teller today for the first time,? says one disappointed customer, ?and I want my app back?

Mobile banking is one of the most popular mobile-commerce-related activities among U.S. consumers.

Moreover, it is a cost-effective mobile program for most banks. This is not going anywhere. Ka-ching.

New York?s Peter Luger Steakhouse becomes first restaurant with ?No Smartphone? section
Asked about the new seating section, one BlackBerry user mumbled, ?Huh? What? Just a minute, let me finish this email. Oh, and bring me a Black Label?

Smartphone ownership and usage is growing at an unprecedented rate. 

Of the 82 percent of U.S. consumers I mentioned with a mobile device, 20 percent own a smartphone ? a clever mobile phone that provides Internet access ? and that percentage is only going up.

Come to think of it, maybe it could happen this year. (You?ve got my vote, Pete!)

Major mobile device manufacturer unveils ?Rubik?s Cube? smartphone
?Apple has cornered the ease-of-use market,? explains an executive. ?We think our customers will enjoy the challenge of finding their email application. Every time?

Every new blockbuster smartphone is touted as an ?iPhone killer? for a reason ? the iPhone has set the bar in terms of ease of use and intuitive design.

This headline is intentionally silly, but look for rival mobile device manufacturers to move closer to the software and design capabilities of the iPhone, not farther away. Maybe it will be Microsoft? On second thoughts, maybe not.

?Innovation Drought? hits mobile sector
?I have two words for you,? says one venture capitalist, ?Land. Lines. Big comeback, baby. Yeah!?

Two more words: never happen.

The mobile sector has consistently been one of the most innovative, most technologically-forward industry in the country, and this is unlikely to change in any one year, but certainly not in 2010.

Next year will offer many things, most of which no one can foretell. But I think we can agree with some certainty that none of the headlines listed above will grace the pages ? rather, the home pages ? of any media outlets in the coming 12 months. 

This New Year will undoubtedly bring several advancements in mobile technology, long-awaited mass mobile usage from a marketing perspective, new regulations and perhaps even the full-scale advent of mobile commerce.

We will just have to wait and see, will we not?

Vanessa Horwell is chief visibility officer of ThinkInk, a marketing communications firm in Miami, FL. Reach her at